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The Fourth of July is upon us and with that comes fireworks, crowds, and injuries, oh my! There is no doubt that this 4th may look a bit different from previous years. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many counties and cities to cancel their fireworks displays to keep large crowds from gathering in one place. Though some shows are still on, it is important to be very careful when it comes to social distancing.
Handling Fireworks Safely
Allison Koonce, LMH Health community outreach and engagement supervisor, said that when it comes to fireworks, they are dangerous for both kids and adults when not handled properly.
“In 2018, there were 207 reported firework-related injuries in Kansas,” Koonce said. “Nearly half involved children under the age of 18. We typically see firework-related injuries reported mostly to the hands, eyes, face, and head.”
It is very important to not let little hands handle fireworks and yes, even sparklers. For those who are too young, Koonce recommends that parents and guardians provide their little ones with glow sticks, a much safer yet still very fun alternative.
“Did you know that sparklers burn at a temperature hot enough to melt glass?” Koonce said. “Even what may seem like the most harmless of fireworks still burn very hot.”
Avoid Large Gatherings Due to COVID-19
COVID-19 has altered many plans from travel, to family gatherings and of course, firework shows. Many local shows have been canceled to avoid large group gatherings, but search your area to see if there is an alternative.
“Some cities are continuing with their fireworks shows, but are encouraging community members to watch from their homes or online where it’s being streamed,” Koonce said. “Look to see if there are virtual shows located near you. You should also look to see what your local and state fireworks laws are. Since shows have been canceled and at-home fireworks are on the rise, it is important to stay extra safe and to know the laws.”
Consider Family and Community Health Too
Dr. Jennifer Schrimsher, an infectious disease physician with LMH Health, shared her own concerns on the potential for mass gatherings around the holiday. As guidelines continue to relax, our efforts to keep ourselves, our families, and the community safe should not.
“Regardless of where we’re at in our county or state’s reopening, my recommendations aren’t going to change much,” Dr. Schrimsher said. “The basic tenets are the same: keep your distance, wear a mask, continue frequent hand hygiene, and stay home if you’re sick. People should still avoid large gatherings and non-essential trips and visits. Everything we do should be viewed through this lens. These simple rules will remain important in keeping ourselves, our families, and our community as safe as possible.”
Not only should Douglas County residents be mindful of traveling, but any residents who have family members traveling in should be aware as well.
“In addition to my regular firework concerns, I am concerned about the great potential for large gatherings and travel,” she said. “I’m hopeful that people are mindful of where they’re traveling as well as their out of town visitors. If your visitors are from a hot spot, they need to quarantine here and avoid contact with others. If you travel to a hot spot, you should quarantine at home for 14 days when you return.”
Dr. Schrimsher said with the stay-at-home orders, she could see how much people care about the well-being of our community. Her hope is that we can carry the same safe practices – like hand hygiene, face-covering, and social distancing - into our day-to-day lives as we return to our “new normal.”
“The virus hasn’t left. It’s quite the opposite actually,” Dr. Schrimsher said. “We’re finding most people that are currently testing positive don’t have any symptoms and are going about life normally. If these people are wearing masks, especially in public places or around others, the virus is more likely to get trapped in their mask, preventing spread.
“Masks are a critical part of keeping our community healthy, I can’t emphasize this enough! I encourage you to mask up, educate your friends and family and set a positive example for those around you – Let’s make masks the new norm together.”
July 4th will still be an exciting time in 2020 - it just may look different. Dr. Schrimsher empathizes with community members wanting to feel normal again. Many of us have the itch to get back to work, fully enjoy summer and times with friends. We can still enjoy these activities, but as Dr. Schrimsher says, we have to do it responsibly.
“COVID is still here and it isn’t going away any time soon,” she said. “In fact, we’re seeing a sharper rise in cases now than we have since the beginning. We need people to remain vigilant. We need people to remain diligent. Mask up. Keep your distance. And as always, wash those hands!”